The Hero and the Crown
This book employs a clever twist on the usual chronological narration: it begins in the middle of the story, goes on for several chapters, then moves backward and begins at the timeline’s beginning. Halfway through the novel, the action finally has moved up to the place at which it began, and Part Two proceeds to finish the tale. This makes for a rather confusing first few chapters, but is all in all a charming way to tell the story. The tale — that of a dragon-fighting princess who discovers she is a “chosen one”, complete with wizards, dragons, and the usual fantasy plethora of characters — is a fairly common one at its most basic. What sets McKinley’s version apart is its solid, well-crafted prose. Occasionally the writing becomes quite poetic; it is always tolerable and often impressive. The book won the Newbery Medal, and is stylistically quite deserving.
Morally, however, McKinley slips up. The book was progressing just fine, in a fairly moral universe (fairly common references to gods and goddesses did not seem problematic to me in the fantasy setting). Suddenly the lead character, Aerin (a very young woman) decides to sleep with her wizard friend…repeatedly. I was rather shocked at the blatant, spoken-aloud “Let’s sleep together!”, followed by narrative saying that they did just that for several nights, considering that this book is marketed toward children. What bothered me even further was that after the two of them separate, Aerin returns to her city and marries a different guy; the book concludes by remarking that she, an immortal, could always wait until he died and then return to her former amour.
Other than this regrettable lapse into immorality, the book presented no moral problems, which is why this “plot twist” frustrated me so much. The full connotation of the innuendo might not be clear to young children, as nothing is graphically described, but the book doesn’t seem appropriate for them even so.